Best ads in 50 years: The birth of shocking charity advertising

As part of Campaign's 50th anniversary, we asked the industry to look back on the best ads of the past 50 years. We are revealing one a day for your viewing pleasure...

Best ads in 50 years: The birth of shocking charity advertising

'Pile of dogs' and 'Horsemeat'

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO / 1989 and 1991

A pile of dead dogs and a lifeless horse on a hook have me feeling nostalgic. First, for an era I never experienced. The noble copywriter, feet up on the desk, nothing but paper, pencil and filterless cigarettes in the toolbox.

Also, remember shocking ads for charities? These are two early examples. A pile of dead dogs and the revelation that friendly RSPCA kills a thousand dogs a day and it’s the government’s fault. Edgy as fuck. Then, the perfect symmetry of xenophobia and a very British view that "horses are people too" combines to lambast the transport of nags to the Frenchies who love their Viande de Cheval fresh.

Thirty years on, they seem almost Chaucerian in their syntax. But you can’t ignore their raw power. Compared with the whimsical, solo piano-driven tearjerkers that drive many charity campaigns today, it leaves me yearning for a day when shock and negativity were weapons, wielded to meaningful effect.

Billy Faithfull is chief creative officer at Engine Group

Become a member of Campaign

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a member

What is Campaign AI?

Our new premium service offering bespoke monitoring reports for your company.

Find out more

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content